The sound was tinny and high, echoing strangely. It jarred with the bustle and warmth that provided the usual backdrop to Edward's dreams, and he stirred lazily. Exerting himself, he focused on the source of the noise. It was a gaudy, shiny thing, little and suddenly it moved. Edward followed the light gleaming off its surfaces, confused until he realised that it was a bell, and the tawny, whispery thing that it was attached to was a kitten. He watched the creature nose its way along the sofa until it curled up, feeling oddly pleased with himself for solving the puzzle.
He was suddenly tired by this effort, and let himself slide back against the sofa, falling back into dreams. The voices stirred, and he let himself be soothed into sleep by their familiarity.
"—telling you, he was looking at it. Properly looking—"
"—imagination. He doesn't see anything. At any rate, he's sleeping now—"
It seemed to Edward, half-way into sleep, that the words ought to mean something.
When he next awoke, the voices were at it again. A steady stream of sound. Edward let it wash over him, absorbing it as he did the rest of his surroundings. There was sunlight and the tiled floor beneath his feet was cold. There was a wooden chair beneath him, and another sitting beside him. The bowl of porridge sat in front of him and he could see thin spirals of steam rising from it in wispy breaths. There were traces of porridge, warm and sweet around his mouth and he wondered where the next spoonful was coming from. It seemed to be taking a long time—
A spoon was dipped into the porridge and he followed it's progress with interest. It seemed to be coming his way, but no—it had paused.
The voices intruded briefly. "—look after Nii-san? We can't both go—"
The spoon wavered and paused. It seemed he'd been forgotten about? Edward's stomach growled emptily, and he reached for the spoon, intending to bring it closer. The hand he extended was unexpectedly heavy and he couldn't control the movement. His hand collided with the spoon and it fell. There was a sharp metallic clutter as it hit the floor, and then the bang of the chair following it, and the voices raised in alarm.
"He moved! Did you see it? He tried to take the spoon from me! I know he did—Niisan, you did move, didn't you?"
"Al, calm down. Don't force him." The tight hands clutching his shoulder were removed and the familiar, strong hands he was used to propped him back up against the chair.
"But you saw—you don't believe me."
"I wasn't looking at the time, but we'll give him another chance." The voice moved away, then returned and a new spoon was pressed into Edward's fingers. "There you go. Are you hungry, Edward?"
Edward looked at his fingers, wrapped around the spoon and stayed perfectly still. Moving was clearly a mistake, it brought noise and upset the voices. His stomach murmured in protest but he ignored it, waiting perfectly still.
The voices weren't happy.
"He moved. I know what I felt."
"Alphonse, I understand how hard this is for you, but it isn't helping matters—"
There was shouting and the door banged shut with a violence that echoed in Edward's head and made the whole table shake. The voices stopped altogether, and it was a while until the spoon was held up to Edward again and he swallowed obediently. The porridge was cold.
There was an undertone of tension the rest of that day that stopped him from drifting back into dreams and coasting like he usually did on the warmth and care. The voices spoke to him, but never together or to each other. Unable to settle, he noticed more. He tried moving his hand again, and practiced picking things up although he was careful to do this only when he couldn't hear the voices any where near. The unaccustomed effort tired him quickly, and he was dozing when he felt himself lifted from the sofa and carried carefully upstairs.
At such close range he couldn't miss the smell of freshly applied aftershave and it tugged at his memory, stirring images and feelings just out of reach. This sense of dislocation occupied him as he was tucked into the waiting bed, and he almost missed the voices.
"You're really going then?"
"It's just one night. You should come too—Ed wouldn't begrudge us a bit of time to ourselves, you know he wouldn't. And think about it, when was the last time you got out of this house?"
"It's not fair to leave him alone like this. Besides, what if he wakes and I'm not here?"
This had the sound of a practiced, much-repeated argument. Edward shut his eyes and found himself asleep mere seconds later.
It was completely dark when he was next awoken, the bed shifting as a warm body made room for itself next to him. A gentle hand patted his cheek, and Edward tried to decipher the face that went with it.
"I hope I didn't wake you . . . It was kind of lonely in my room, and I wondered if maybe you were lonely too. I mean, we gave you the closest room but you're still all by yourself, and we always used to share a room . . ." The voice trailed off, and Edward found himself pulled close. Fingers wrapped themselves in his hair and he relaxed at the gesture. "Nii-san, I know you moved. I know—you're going to get better, aren't you? You're going to come back, I know you will. Please, Nii-san—come back soon."
This was wrong, Edward knew it was. This person should never sound so sad. But he was tired, and he couldn't think anymore and it was much easier to shut his eyes and let the gentle fingers press through his hair and fall into the waiting darkness—
Much later, he lay awake listening to the breathing of the person next to him and watching the way the moonlight outlined the shadows and curves of his face. It was bright, bright enough to intrude on his dreams and pull him into this odd state of half-wakefullness.
The person sighed in his sleep and Edward watched curiously, the slight frown that appeared on his face. He knew this person, knew he was important, but beyond that . . . Hesitantly, hardly daring to trust his clumsy fingers, Edward reached out. He found the person's cheek and traced it gently, then reached up to brush short spiky hair. It tickled his fingers, and he smiled, opening his mouth to voice this discovery.
That didn't come out right. Edward tried again, concentrating hard as he tested muscles not used in months. The result was more a rasp than a word, but after a few tries, Edward got it right.
And feeling as if everything now made perfect sense, Edward closed his eyes again.